Slowdive - Younger than Yesterday
They'd be too modest to admit it themsleves, but SLOWDIVE are the most promising of the post-My Bloody Valentine guitar dreamers, as the mutant orchestral beauty of their current 'Morning Rise' ao adaptly demnstartes. BOB STANLEY reports. Pics: COLIN BELL
"A LOT OF BANDS ARE SO PRECIOUS ABOUT influences, thinking they're massively original. I don't think we are."
Slowdive look exactly like you'd expect them to. Four boys and a girl, some interchangeable bowl haircuts, some immaculate middleclass accents, a smattering of spots. Nothing unusual. Sitting in a Leicester hotel room watching "Neighbours" ("Isn't Des looking like a member of Showaddywaddy these days?"), they seem as normal and polite as can be.
"We're so polite we'd open the hotel window before we threw the TV out," claims laughing boy Nick. And this is what's really unnerving about Slowdive - having recorded two quite beautiful singles, they are horribly, horribly modest.
NEIL and Rachel are the head honchos, an exercise in studied cool, Slowdive's pin-up potential. Both look and act as if they know Slowdive are something special. Neil rarely smiles and says things like, "I think melancholy is part of our personalities". They never raise their voices above a certain level and listen patiently to the more excitable Christian (third guitar) and Nick (bass). Drummer Simon, he of the Vidal Sassoon perfecto-bowl, is the new boy (he left the now-defunct Charlottes at Christmas) and accordingly keeps his mouth shut. He just sits there looking about 14. They look unspeakably young.
"We're all various ages between 19 and 20," explains Nick to much guffawing.
Neil: "Alan McGee thought we were 16. A bloke from EMI saw us in Reading supporting 5.30 and passed our tape on to Alan. For some reason he told Alan we were 16. So McGee was frantically trying to find us on the phone. "
Nick: "He thought he'd discovered the new Birdland!"
Neil: "He thought we could be as big as. . . Musical Youth. He was quite disappointed wilen he saw we all had stubble. Even Rachel."
SLOWDIVE are understandably wary about telling Creation that the girl who plays cello on their current EP is a mere 15 years old, just in case they give here a 10 album contract. Which is brings us neatty to "Morning Rise", the new single. Yes, the band are all happy with it. No, there isn't a remix coming out though they're open to suggestions. Strangely, the weakest of the three songs has been placed on the A-side.
"I think we all prefer 'She Calls' and 'Losing Today' ," says Rachel, though Nick looks a trifle put out.
Neil: 'We thought 'Morning Rise' was a better song to do a video for."
I hope he's kidding, viewers, but I don't think he is.
"It's our nod to commercialism," Nick adds wryly.
Neil: ''There's a classic pop tune in there. It' s f...ed up but it's there."
Truthfully, "Morning Rise" could be one of a number of post-Blood Val bands. It' s not bad, but placed alongside the ruby red warmth and beauty of the other two songs, it slinks away apologetically. The problem is that "Morning Rise" has quite definitely been written as a song with a clear melody and audible vocal line. But Slowdive are in love with chord progressions. Their finest, and most individual, moments occur when they build up a song from nothing but a string of tearful minor chords.
The result is a mutant orchestral beauty, closer to left-field film soundtracks than lush or The Boo Radleys. Slowdive won't be happy until they've found that elusive chord progression that makes you weep instantly at its beauty. On "She Calls" and, especially, "Losing Today", they've come damn close.
Nick: 'Where we've written the chords first, those songs just fall together. 'Avalyn' (on the first single) and 'Losing Today' were like that. People seem to prefer those songs because they sound unfinished."
Neil: "It's a bit like doing a painting. We work in layers and it could end up just sounding like a blur! I think we've been lucky so far."
A FORTUNATE end result of the layered-orchestral-guitar-blur work method is that it hides Slowdive' s occasionally irksome lyrics. OK, so who's responsible for ''The devil takes my mind but I don't care", eh? The finger of suspicion points at Neil.
"Errm, it just fitted," he offers. "I've asked him what it moons but he won't tell me either," Rachel laughs.
Neil: 'Well, it does have reference to my personal life, but I can't say what."
Did the devil take your mind then?
"No, no... it'll have to remain an enigma!"
"These two Mormons neorly took our minds though," says Nick in his best Vincent Price creepy voice. "They turned up at our house exactly the same time we were expecting this journalist. But instead of asking us abaut why we sound like My Bloody Valentine and what drugs we prefer, they tried to convert us to the ways of the latter day saints."
Neil: "I got suspicious when their first question was, 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ?'"
Rachel: "And so you ran into the kitchen and left me and Christian to deal with it!"
Christian: ''They got me to read a J?Ossage from their book and everything. But they soon left alter we played them the single. I think it was Neil's line about the devil that did it."
Neil: "They cleared off after I offered them a glass of sheep's blood."
TIME for a little experiment. Let's lob a few random words at Slowdive and see how they react. Firstword: droning.
Neil: 'When we started out just over a year ago we were much more drone-based. My Bloody Valentine were the big influence. . . realistically we haven't got a very individual sound. I think it takes time. I know it will develop."
Nick: "If all we did was drone, it would get pretty boring."
Oh, l dunno.
Neil: "It does produce a state of mind ... we're not about to disown our drone!"
Second word: drugs.
Neil: ''Yeah, Slowdive music is quite suitable for drugtaking. The records are laid-back. But it's a drug in itself. I think it has hypnotic qualities, don't you?"
Nick: "And two-fifths of this band don'ttake any drugs at all."
"Drugs are rubbish," mutters Simon as if to prove he isn't really a deaf mute.
Third word: beauty.
There is a pause. Christian blushes: 'Why are you all looking at me?"
Nick: "Christian is our idea of beauty."
Rachel: "Christian loves ginger-haired girls with freckles. Sarah Ferguson is his ideal woman."
Christian: 'When I first saw the snow on the trees last week I thought, 'God that's really beautiful' . But now my feet keep getting wet and I'm f**ed off with it."
Oh yes, very melancholy. In spite of their reticence, Slowdive must know they have more potential than possibly any other post-Valentines combo. As long as they don't keep writing A-sides to fit their videos, then they will create some of the most wayward and bejewelled records of tomorrow.
In the words of Swervedriver, the scabby longhairs they are always being confused with, Slowdive are the ultimate rave-down.
Originally appeared in Melody Maker, March 2, 1991
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